The rush to vet new teachers and charity workers has put the troubled Criminal Records Bureau under pressure and created further problems for charity and public sector employees. Mike Broad reports
With teachers having returned to the classroom for the new school year, the crisis over the delays in checking their criminal records has receded from the headlines.
The Government's u-turn in September allowed teachers waiting for clearance to work at the discretion of their head teachers and diverted the media's gaze from the Criminal Records Bureau's (CRB) failure to complete 22,000 checks on school staff in time for the new term.
But the crisis has not ended. Many employers in the public and voluntary sectors are suffering severe recruitment difficulties because of the delays in processing disclosures. The latest figures show a backlog of 198,000 unprocessed checks, of which half are over three weeks old.
Before employers can appoint staff to work unsupervised with children or vulnerable adults, they need an enhanced CRB check, but the long delays mean that few employers can afford to wait for clearance.
Many employers are concerned that the resulting recruitment difficulties are starting to damage the provision of services.
President of the Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management Tracy Myhill, said some members were reporting delays of between 12 weeks and six months for the CRB to complete checks on new staff.
"This has led to delays in appointments at a time when we cannot afford them," she says.
NHS hospitals in London, for example, are losing nursing staff at a rate of up to 38 per cent a year, according to new research by the King's Fund think tank.
The delays are also damaging moves to improve the recruitment of social workers following the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie.
David Wright, of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS), said: "Every local authority has suffered delays, but its effect depends on their rate of staff turnover in social services. "For those with higher vacancy rates, it is increasing the pressure on service delivery, and represents a real risk-management problem."
A recent report by the ADSS, which has members in 150 local authorities, says there is an urgent need to improve the recruitment and training of social workers to prevent further trag